Review: Imagination cocktail menu – St James Bar, London

St James Bar Passport Menu
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St James Bar in London recently launched their latest cocktail menu, Imagination – inspired by a famous Einstein quote, and executed in a truly creative manner. We at Vada checked in to see how they really taste.

St James Bar

At 5 minutes walk, inside the Sofitel St James hotel, St James Bar, like the rest of the hospitality industry, has spent the majority of the past year in lockdown. The bar team have allowed their creative juices to flow during that period and developed their latest cocktail menu Imagination, to follow up the previous award-winning Passport menu (which we reviewed in 2019).

For readers who have not yet visited, the St James bar interior exudes luxury through curved plush velvet seating in samphire shades, brass accents and colourful rows of bottled handmade tinctures, bitters and liqueurs behind the centrepiece bar. The painting of the huge cock (a French cockerel wearing an English military uniform) on the ceiling is a nod to the hotel brand’s blend of French history and local culture.

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Imagination cocktail menu

Einstein was quoted as saying “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” As a basis of the new menu therefore, the team asked themselves the meaning of imagination and how it allows us to explore ideas outside our immediate reality, impact our memory and challenge our senses. They proposed unique flavours, alternative techniques and sustainable processes to invoke the scientific to create the fantastical.

This sounds rather fanciful, but what does this mean for bar-goers? It starts with a menu that you can pick up in your hands (see photos, below), designed into a chemical model for serotonin – the hormone that provides feelings of well-being and happiness. Cocktails are presented on both sides, with one side focussing on cocktails that are dark and intense, and the other side on drinks that are light and delicate, with a total of 22 options, including 2 non-alcoholic beverages.

We sampled a few cocktails from the Imagination menu, the following being our recommendations:

  • #NoHashtag (£14) – one of the non-alcoholic options, made with the aperitif Everleaf mountain, lychee juice, butterfly pea (which creates the magenta hue when mixed with anything acidic), Champagne solution, apple, and marshmallow foam. The marshmallow foam is a revelation for those with a sweet tooth.
  • Divination (£18) – made with Vestal Vodka, passion fruit & oyster lead (a green leafy veg), lavender tincture, and Champagne, served with a tarot card, this is a glass of luxury and indulgence.
  • Plutchik’s (£16) – made with Roku gin, cucumber, yuzu, and Franklin elderflower and cucumber tonic, this floral coupe is an understated choice
  • Say Cheese! (£23) – made with Schrodinger’s Katzen Gin, shies & hibiscus, mango, husk liqueur, and marshmallow foam – served with a print of Einstein on edible rice paper atop the foam, drinking this cocktail is like a a molten packet of skittles.
  • Ray (£17) – made with Boatyard Double Gin, clementine and passionfruit, white port, kaffir and champagne. ‘Ray’, who we assume is short for ‘rainbow’, is a cock(tail) who you won’t mind your man enjoying.
  • La Penca de la Vida (£22) – made with Corte Vetusto Epadin Mezcal, pineapple, Luxardo bitter, white port, pine, and clementine – this rib of life has a pineapple that is so delicate to just add a subtle sweetness with the most prominent and unique pine. Served on a sachet of lavender, this aromatic choice has a sweet treat within.
  • E=m(t+6.712) (£21) – by far the most unusual interpretation of ‘cocktail’ on the menu, more food than drink, this choice is served as a (vegan-friendly) gelatine ball with the cocktail liquid within. Guests must bite into it to allow the cocktail to explode in their mouth and appreciate the waves of flavour. This is made with Lakes Orange Wine Cask Whisky, verjus (an aperitif made with pressed unripened grapes), osmanthus (an east-Asian plant), pistachio, peach and fino sherry.

Sustainability

St James bar has incorporated sustainability into the development of the new Imagination cocktail menu, for example the team uses lemon husk in multiple ways, making use of locally-sourced honey (from hives located at the top of the hotel), and looking at other methods to reduce waste overall.

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Overall thoughts

The interior of the St James Bar remains as elegant as we previously remember it. The cocktails are priced at the upper end of the scale, which reflects the level of creativity and presentation of the drinks and level of service you will receive. Located only a few minutes’ from Piccadilly, St James Bar is therefore an ideal venue to make an impressive start for a date night in nearby Soho.

The Imagination cocktail menu has choices for all tastes, from sweet to complex, and from delicate to intense. There are only a handful of bars in London which provide an elevated, creative cocktail menu and the Imagination menu has once again proved that St James Bar remains among them.

Location: St James Bar, Sofitel St James, 6 Waterloo Place, London, SW1Y

For more information and to book a table, visit sofitelstjames.com

About Tim Firmager

Tim divides his time being a Digital Consultant in The City and as a food and travel writer across the globe. When he's not working as one of the Lifestyle Editors here at Vada, he's planning his next trip, or on the lookout for the latest food crazes or unusual foods in London's markets.